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Fabric store weathered changes


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POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2009

Since it was founded 83 years ago, Kaimuki Dry Goods evolved from a mom-and-pop general store to a supplier of fine fabric that survived the loss of many of its best customers.

The store weathered a cultural turning point when homemakers joined the work force and no longer had time to sew in the 1980s. The store also persevered through the death of two matriarchs who ran the business, a switch in location and stiff competition, said Dee Dee Miyashiro, the company's third-generation president.

Pam Metzger, assistant manager, once counted more than 100 fabric stores in the state when she first joined the store 25 years ago, so she is proud of just “;lasting so long.”;

“;Mom-and-pop stores have folded after 80 to 90 years, but we aim to stay here and maintain tradition,”; Metzger added.

In 1926, Takao and Masako Ozawa opened Kaimuki Dry Goods next to First Hawaiian Bank on Waialae Avenue, and stocked it with everything imaginable. When they retired, they formed Kaimuki Dry Goods Ltd., a corporation run by their children and managed by Dorothy Sumida, or “;Auntie Dot.”; When department stores like Sears and Kress offered too much competition in the 1960s, Kaimuki Dry Goods slowly turned into a specialty fabric store, Miyashiro said.

               

     

 

KAIMUKI DRY GOODS LTD.

        Founded: 1926
       

Location: 1144 10th Ave.

       

Founders: Takao and Masako Ozawa

       

Business: Fabric and sewing supplies

       

Employees: 10

       

 

       

Sumida retired in 1972, then Miyashiro's mother, Edith Takeya, ran the store. Takeya continued to work part time as Miyashiro took the reins in 1993, with brother Kenneth Takeya as bookkeeper. Edith Takeya died this summer at the age of 96.

“;My mother's legacy”; is the store's reputation for a wide selection of high-quality merchandise and a knowledgeable staff, Miyashiro said.

“;By golly, man, when we went to the mainland (on buying trips), we were treated so specially by the presidents and owners of the companies! They all knew KDG and my mother,”; she added.

Takeya made the England-born Metzger feel like part of the family. “;Mrs. Takeya was my best friend. ... She was like my mother. I miss her terribly. She was admired and respected by all who worked for her,”; Metzger said.

Miyashiro attributes the store's longevity to loyal customers and employees, some of whom worked 40 to 50 years for the company. It used to have 25 employees but is down to 10. People kept coming in spite of the move from the middle of the bustling Kaimuki business district to the current off-the-beaten-path location on 10th Avenue in 1976, she added.

In the past decade, Miyashiro has seen a resurgence in interest among young people, and in sewing quilts instead of clothing.

The company specializes in high-end bridal and gown supplies but also offers fabric for mosquito netting and poi straining. From the beginning its tag line has always been “;You'll find it at Kaimuki Dry Goods,”; Miyashiro said.